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East Side Ovens Crafts Vegan Baked Goods

Feb. 21, 2017
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East Side Ovens is a pioneer in artisan vegan bakery, providing the Milwaukee area and beyond with vegan cookies, pies, muffins, dumplings, seasonal specialties, custom order cakes and other sweet delights. Both vegans and non-vegans have enjoyed their products so much over the years that owners Amanda and Doug Maierhafer had to move to a new, larger bake house this past fall (5430 S. Packard Ave., Cudahy). The bakery does mostly wholesale business, but the new Cudahy space also boasts a small retail area with grab-and-go bakery, coffee and tea.

The Maierhafers are dedicated vegans and bought East Side Ovens from Steve Luedtke and Frances Smith in 2006. Unsurprisingly given its name, the bakery does have origins going back to the East Side, when it originally incorporated as Vann’s Pastry Shop in 1946. In 1993, Bob Vann sold it to the Luedtkes, who transitioned to vegan products and eventually moved operations to a space at 2899 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. in Bay View. 

Neither Amanda nor Doug had much experience in baking prior to purchasing East Side Ovens, but they remained committed to making sure all products are 100% vegan and made with vegan-dedicated baking equipment. They also eliminated trans fats and artificial preservatives from their products, instead opting for ingredients like citric acid as a natural preservative to keep fruits fresh.

“We stay in front of trends, especially health trends, to make sure customers are getting the best quality products from us,” Amanda said.

East Side Ovens’ popular cherry dumplings have a tangy cherry filling tucked into soft, flaky crust with just enough glaze to add a touch of sweetness. Cookie flavors include chocolate chip, peanut butter chocolate chip, cranberry-orange and ginger-molasses. The pecan fingers were originally made just for the Christmas season, but they quickly became customer favorites and are now available all year. Muffins, carrot cake, scones, mini berry pies and pecan cinnamon rolls round out the sweet options.

Bread selections include rye with onion and dill, German six-grain and Italian white. Varieties rotate weekly. South Siders have long had an affinity for caraway rye bread, and Amanda said their version is a hit with customers.

East Side Ovens also offers custom order cakes for weddings, birthdays and events. The buttercream-like frosting is made with a vegan butter substitute, and Amanda decorates all the cakes herself.

Business is brisk at the new Cudahy retail location, and customers can watch East Side Ovens employees crafting the scratch-made bakery. The Maierhafers still own the Kinnickinnic Avenue location and may remodel that space, but for now the bake house and retail space all functions from the Packard Avenue location.

“Most customers don’t even really know that we’re vegan,” Amanda said, “we’re just about delicious bakery, and it’s nice to be appreciated for the hard work we do instead of just the specialty.”

East Side Ovens products can be found at Beans & Barley, Layton Fruit Market, Koppa’s Fulbeli Deli and Outpost Natural Foods. They have a stand every year at the South Shore Farmers Market and the Dane County Farmers Market.

Hours: Saturday-Sunday, 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.; Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.; closed Tuesday. For more information, visit eastsideovens.com.

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